Bessie McNicol

Endicott West and Middle Earth

Terri Windling, Delia Sherman & I are selling our beloved Endicott West, the house/arts retreat we all put together in Tucson, Arizona some 13 years ago . . . The letters are flying back and forth across the Atlantic, of course, as we three come to terms with this change in our lives, and say good bye to a past and a vision. In one of them, Terri wrote:

A wise woman I know named Ellen Kushner once said this in an interview in Locus magazine: "Now my generation, we're all hitting late-thirties to late-forties. Our concerns are different. If we stick to fantasy, what are we going to do? Traditionally, there's been the coming-of-age [novel] and the quest which is the finding of self. We're past the early stages of that. I can't wait to see what people do with the issues of middle age in fantasy. Does fantasy demand that you stay in your adolescence forever? I don't think so. Tolkien is not juvenile. It's a book about losing things you loved, which is a very middle–aged concern. Frodo's quest is a middle–aged man's quest, to lose something and to give something up, which is what you start to realize in your thirties is going to happen to you. Part of the rest of your life is learning to give things up."

I don't remember saying all that!  But I do recognize both those thoughts as coming from conversations I had with Michael Swanwick, back when I used to visit him in Philadelphia after Philcon.  We'd stay up late talking, and then he'd drive me around the city, showing me local curiosities and dispensing wisdom and pensées - mostly just posing questions, and chewing on them happily together.

I like to quote my sources, so:  Thank you, Michael.

Fortunately, Mr. Swanwick wrote up his thoughts on Tolkien in a gorgeous essay for Karen Haber's Meditations on Middle Earth.  I invited him to speak about them on my public radio show, Sound & Spirit, for one of the last shows I did, The Lord of the Rings - and, Lo!, someone has transcribed his words and put them up on The One Ring Forum, here!*   (You can also listen to the entire 1-hour radio show - including the Swanwick interview - here.)

Oddly enough, speaking of the LOTR S&S show, I just got FB Friended by a guy in Poland with the rather elegant name of Ryszard Viajante Derdzinski who says, "Your broadcasts are famous among the Polish fans of JRR Tolkien. Thanks to you I discovered The Tolkien Ensemble and Varttina."

Wow.  What goes around . . . certainly goes around!  And Finnish women's neo-trad singers Värttinä can't have too many fans.

*Swanwick quote from Sound & Spirit: The Lord of the Rings:
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Canty StVier

YOU'RE INVITED: Live Swordspoint Audiobook Performance, Monday Dec. 2nd, NYC

To celebrate the completion of all three “Riverside” audiobooks for Neil Gaiman Presents, you’re invited to a special live performance of selections from all three novels, featuring the authors as narrators, along with members of the original audiobook cast.
When I teamed up with SueMedia Productions to narrate my own audiobook of Swordspoint, magic happened. Our audio version won a  2012 Audie Award, and we went on to do the next two in the same innovative “illuminated” style, featuring original SFX and all-new music for the series by exciting young composer Nathanael Tronerud.
Please join us
The SoHo Gallery for Digital Art
138 Sullivan Street  (between Houston & Prince St.)
New York City
Our CAST will feature multiple Audie-Award winning performers:
Barbara Rosenblat (Orange is the New Black, Elizabeth Peters’ “Amelia Peabody” series)
Katherine Kellgren (L.A. Meyer's “Bloody Jack” series)
Robert Fass
Bill Rogers (Pokemon!)
Doug Shapiro
Ryan McCabe
Jordan Smith
……in their original roles
with authors Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman narrating their own work!
Refreshments will be provided.  Come ready to celebrate a truly remarkable achievement, and to peek behind the scenes at a live audiobook performance!
Part of the NYRSF Reading Series:  "Admission free; $7 donation suggested.”
* * * * * *
Can’t make the show?  You can still hear Neil Gaiman’s own introductions to the three books here on my website … and then just click on each the titles to hear a sample clip from each book!
To download a FREE audiobook of Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword or The Fall of the Kings, try free for 30 days here: ….or just order a copy on iTunes or
Have a great Thanksgiving!
*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes

French hugs & kisses

While digging around for the fine distinctions in French between embrasser (which should be "embrace" but sometimes means "kiss"), baiser (don't ask!), bisous, calîn, etc., I found this highly useful note in an old WordForum:

As I see it, the confusion about kissing and hugging got started in the 17th century. The exquisite preciosity (and hypocrisy) of the Versailles courtisans - who called teeth "the furnishings of the mouth", for example - made it popular among them to describe having sex with someone as "kissing" them. It was less crude, but more ambiguous too, and it soon lost its euphemistic sense and became a word just as rude as f---. The result is that, until today, if you say that a couple is baise-ing, it means they are fucking, et point finale!

This expropriation, however, created a need for a substitute to describe the simple act of kissing someone, now that “baiser” had been irretrievably expropriated for another purpose. The solution created even more confusion - the verb "embrasser", to embrace, began to be used (or misused) instead.

The result of all this is that in current French one has to find all sorts of round-about ways of describing these simple acts. For example, to say "I want to kiss you", you can choose between "Je veux t'embrasser" or – curiously - "Je veux te donner un baiser", since the noun did not meet the same fate as the verb.

“I want to hug you” is even worse, since this gesture is not very French and, what with “embrasser” now meaning “to kiss”, has to be described in detail: "Je veux t'entourer des bras", "Je veux t'enlacer", or still "Je veux te serrer dans mes bras". Curiously again, the noun retains its original meaning – the seldom used “une embrassade” still means “an embrace”.

It's a lot simpler in English - and in Spanish with "besar", "abrazar" and "abrazo" - but that is the state to which the French mania for "la délicatesse et la discrétion" has led them and their beautiful tongue. It's one of the reasons that immigrants find it so difficult to learn French, and even leads native-born youngsters to butcher their own language and stuff it with English words. The alarming result is not just the much-decried "franglais" but a kind of pidgin which is inexorably forcing out the 17th century form of the language which we, who have laboriously learned it, still speak.

The proof that this last statement is true, whereas current English has immeasurably evolved over the last few centuries, is that the plays of Racine and Corneille are still clearly understandable to us, while those of Shakespeare are a minefield of misunderstandings that cannot be read without footnotes.
Bessie McNicol

We are in rural France

...And the story of how we got here - after time in Devon with Terri, then WFC in Brighton, then visiting David Almond in Northumberland, Lizza Aiken (and Geoff Ryman) in London, then flying to Marseille where Brutish Airways lost my luggage & everything went pear-shaped for a couple of days til we were able to retrieve it and find a place to stay that had actual heat (and a huge fireplace) in the face of a sudden brutal Mistral wind . . . Well, I've been putting up posts & photos on Facebook, but I know some of you do not Indulge, so here is my latest post, because it seems more LJ-ish than FB-ish, quand-meme:

OK, behold me justabout weeping with simple joy. Did I mention that our  gîte is in an old stable? (Which is why we have big plate glass window looking out onto walled garden) Owner lives on the other side, in the house that would have owned the stable.  He just appeared with a jar of his wife's fig jam, and a bottle of white Minervois wine - because we said how much we'd like the red wine and the amazing celestial plum preserves he presented us with when we arrived.  His Sister-in-Law, who speaks great English, just turned up to ask if we needed anything. And then he reappeared & invited us to tea in an hour. Where I bet his wife has more treats in store.... Poor Delia is trying to write her novel.  I'm just looking out the window at the olive tree, the clouds scudding before the howling wind, and trying to get a grip on myself.... Maybe I'll write tonight.  Or maybe I'll just suck in more happy goodness, and let it all out in a novel someday.

Here is the gîte we are renting for the week.  I feel like I could stay here a month.  Maybe next time?

Words of Wisdom from David Almond

Had a great time at Sirens - so many fine colleagues! So many great talks about writing & books & what it all means.... And, since I was "Faerie GoH,"  I got to dig out my folklore self, and, armed with a borrowed guitar, do a semi-performance of the words and ballads of my novel THOMAS THE RHYMER, and talk a lot about that end of the EllenVerse.   Good to get back to it.

So when I came across this, from our beloved David Almond, I was moved to post (on FB, reposted here) - a sense of continuing the conversation.  David Almond was Writer in Residence when we taught at
Hollins University Children's Literature this summer, and really reminded me of why I wanted to write in the first place - and galvanized & put heart into my students, as well.  A little shot in the arm from him, as ever:

'I got a scholarship to go and live in a Scottish castle for a month to write. I wrote a lot of the first half of Kit's Wilderness when I was there. .... I walked through the castle one day thinking, "I can't do this. It's too hard." But then I thought, "Well, yes, you can, of course you can." And I also had this feeling that maybe the story was a bit too dark and maybe it was a bit too difficult for young readers, and I just had to say, "Well, you can write it. You have to challenge yourself to write it, and you have to trust your readers, so get back to the desk and write it."'

And also: 'I think of writing as being very similar to music. And a lot of the things that I write down, I'll write down because they sound good. I hope they have a meaning and they have help to carry the story forwards. But, I'm also interested in the sound and the voices.'

More here:
Spanish Swordspoint


Last night, we went to Town Hall to see Richard Thompson solo acoustic concert of perpetual bliss.  He always does that to me.  A genius songwriter and guitarist - but also a performer of tremendous generosity.  The air changes when he's in it.  I love his albums, but LIVE . . . I swear to you, he cured my flu one night in Boston - for 24 hours, anyway.  Miraculous.

Opening last night was his perfectly competent, rather dull son Teddy. Never mind, I thought; it's the perfect chance to think about all those thorny issues in the book you're writing.  No distractions, you know?

But, no.  I was just bored.

And then RT came on.  He started playing, and my brain & heart cracked open like a John Donne or George Herbert poem!

I was glorying in the songs, I was thrilling to the guitar riffs - and the novel started marching through my brain, throwing off sparks - I was watching it all happen - I was seeing all the connections - and during the guitar solo on "Vincent Black Lightning," not only Delia but probably my poor neighbors heard me shout, "Yes! That's it!" followed I'm afraid a few beats (and visions) later by a chuckled, "Of course! Damn I'm good."

And then I just enjoyed the show.  Because I now had the entire second half of my novel to hand.

Oh, dear, and now I want to write a long screed here about how the Power of Richard has moved in me, from the stormy cross-country drive where my friend Nick popped a cassette of Shoot out the Lights in the car stereo, and I went: Holy crap!!! This is just like that book I'm writing (Swordspoint)!!!! . . . . to the chance meeting I had with RT on the shuttle plane from NYC back to Boston where I was making Sound & Spirit . . . to last year's City Winery all-request show where kind friends saved me a seat down front . . . . .

But I must march myself and my backpack back up to Butler Library, where a long table in a quiet room awaits me, smelling of brass and old wood and many, many books, and tall windows let in the sun over 114th St.   After all, I've got the second half, now!

Oh, what the hell:


Our fine friends at Tor.Com are offering a complete set of Riverside Audiobooks, plus extra goodies including Neil Gaiman's signed script for his Introduction to The Fall of the Kings audiobook, and a photo of all of us in the studio the day we recorded Neil's part (to be signed by Delia & me).

It's a Sweepstakes you can enter just by Commenting there on their site.

Photo:  Me, Neil, Delia & producer/director Sue Zizza

My co-author,deliasherman, & I are just thrilled. Thanks again to all the actors who took part in this ambitious project, and to everyone at Audible, Tor.Com & SueMedia who made it happen.

The Sweepstakes runs through Sept. 1.  To enter, click here.
--And don't be churlish:  Tell your friends!

beta-check my new website today?

Ah, this thrilling transfer process!


If you've got a minute, could you please type into your address bar?

You should get the glorious new website! But you may not.  If that is the case, could let me know (in COMMENTS here below) what does come up? and where you're doing this from? & which browser you're using?

Many thanks!

ETA:  If you're not getting the new website, you're probably getting the PairNIC page. Which is - kinda - as it should be. My web pal explains: "DNS servers will take some time to re-direct. They all need to talk to each other and these high level changes take some time to percolate. Let's hear back from the Livejournal crowd and see what they say. If by 2:30 or so there is still some "404"s and the PairNIC page, I will call Pair and get the lowdown. They are very responsive."

So with luck, by mid-afternoon here everyone will be reporting a good connect - and if not, we'll take action! Thank you very much for taking the time to check.

ETA #2:  Do please keep letting me know if you're NOT getting it! Though most people are by now, hurrah!

IF you're into the new site and you find a bad/missing link or confusing page . . . drop us a Comment & we'll get to it! Many thanks.

And thanks for all your nice comments about the new website.  The designer is the fabulous Tara O'Shea!

FALL OF THE KINGS Recipe/Menu Contest Winners

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed culinary delights to the Riverside Series Recipes-and-Menus Contest! You must now click through and see them all, for they are a wonder to behold.

They ranged from the witty to the more-ish, the stunningly artistic to the heart-meltingly "I can't believe you read my books and know them so well....!" Last night at midnight, we read them all, and immediately went on a snacking binge that has lasted . . . well, let's just say it's not over yet.

Congratulations to our Winners:

Lynn A. Aderholt
Daphne Knudson
Nightwing Whitehead

You will each receive a download code by e-mail for your free copy of the new audiobook of THE FALL OF THE KINGS.  We'll need a working e-mail address to send that to you, so please drop us a Comment here with your preferred e-dress. Don't worry:  We have LJ comments on this post screened so no one but my assistant, Laura, and I will see them. If you'd prefer to DM me at Facebook, that's OK, too.

And while we're on the subject of things we need from our winners:
We'd also like to include as many of the recipes & menus as we can on my forthcoming NEW website (!!!) in the all-new, all-revised CUISINE section of "The World of Riverside" (designed by the fabulous Tara O'Shea!).  Please let us know if you are willing to let us post your recipe there, possibly along with your original note from my LiveJournal explaining your entry.  We will give credit where credit is due, so if you're willing, just let us know how you'd like to be credited:  your real name? your blog name? or even "Anonymous?" -  and what link, if any, you'd like us to link your name to.

Again, thanks to everyone who participated by entering or helping to spread the word!

Hmmm.....speaking of SPREAD . . . do we have any of that goat cheese left?